By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – There was nothing surprising about this.
Green Bay’s offense, Hundley can’t move against Minnesota’s ‘D’ in shutout loss
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Not the depleted Packers’ offense’s total lack of any semblance of success against the Vikings’ top-ranked defense.
Not their fans’ boos – clearly and understandably born of frustration – that cascaded around frigid Lambeau Field on Saturday night.
Not the final score: Vikings 16, Packers 0.
Minnesota (12-3) celebrated its second NFC North Division title in three seasons by mauling the erstwhile champs in their house.
The depleted Packers put up little fight.
This was the start of a long winter’s nap in Green Bay.
Some fans may have wanted them to treat this like a preseason game and a chance to move up in the 2018 NFL Draft.
I wanted them to make a battle of it. I wanted them to KO the cockiness out of the Vikings. I wanted them to remind the nationally televised audience that Green Bay isn’t anyone’s underdog, with or without the great Aaron Rodgers.
Oh, well, so much for my Packers-related wishes.
At any rate, the Packers’ offense got pushed around like a top-notch high school varsity team might beat up on the JV’s.
Brett Hundley’s eighth NFL start didn’t look much better than his first. He struggled to find any rhythm and consistency. To make it worse, he made a terrible decision that led to a red zone-interception, the worst kind.
Hundley completed 17 of 40 passes for 130 yards and two interceptions. Why in the world was Hundley asked to throw it 40 times in such unbearable conditions with so many of his weapons out?
Frankly, I have no idea.
How much of the ineptitude was Hundley? How much was it the Vikings’ dominant defense? How much of it was Green Bay’s depleted offensive weaponry?
Clearly, it was all of the above.
The Packers, at 7-8, are what their win-loss record suggests. They are a sub-.500 team with zero, count ‘em, zero Pro Bowl players in this year’s NFL all-star game.
The Packers played without Rodgers, who they placed on season-ending IR earlier in the week, plus receivers Davante Adams (concussion) and Jordy Nelson (early in the first half with a left hand/wrist injury). Tight end Richard Rodgers also exited with a shoulder injury.
It left Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and tight end Lance Kendricks to provide whatever points the offense could muster. The answer was a resounding zip.
Williams rushed 15 times for 58 yards with Jones managing only 13 yards in three attempts before exiting with a knee injury. Kendricks had four catches for 36 yards.
It was the fourth time in six games that Minnesota’s defense allowed fewer than 10 points. It also was the Packers’ second shutout loss at home this season.
The Ravens blanked the Packers 23-0 on Nov. 19.
“Injuries are unfortunate,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “We had a lot of opportunities tonight. We didn’t make the plays.”
The Vikings notched their first shutout since 1993 and could clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by winning next week and having the Eagles lose out.
It was Minnesota’s first shutout of Green Bay since Nov. 14, 1971, back in the days of the “Purple People Eaters.”
“(The defense) has played pretty good all year long,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Proof will be in the pudding here in a couple of weeks.”
The Packers wrap it up at Detroit next week.
In the loss to Minnesota, I was reminded of several things:
** McCarthy doesn’t commit to the running game the way he should or needs to.
** Justin McCray is a very valuable, versatile offensive lineman.
** Green Bay needs a top-notch receiver to twin with Davante Adams, or to step up if Adams’ concussion history becomes a serious health issue.
** The Packers’ defense needs a new direction.
I won’t be surprised if defensive coordinator Dom Capers and most or all of his staff is let go after the season.
** Finally, I’ll be disappointed if the Packers don’t step up and defeat the Lions at Detroit this week. For whatever reason, Hundley has been decent on the road. This is his final chance to show the Packers, and other NFL teams, what he’s made of.
It’s also a chance to cut loose the defense and the running game.
Let’s see if McCarthy makes it so.